My favorite quotes (most are science related):

These quotes are primarily intended for prospective students to get a clearer handle on my philosophy and viewpoint (the first is my favorite and most relevant to joining my lab):

Politeness is the poison of all good collaboration in science.  The soul of collaboration is perfect candor, rudeness if need be.  Its prerequisite is parity of standing in science, for if one figure is too much senior to the other, that’s when the serpent politeness creeps in.  A good scientist values criticism almost higher than friendship: no, in science criticism is the height and measure of friendship.

–Francis Crick in a BBC interview

There are no applied sciences…there are only applications of science and this is a very different matter … The application of science is very easy to anyone who is the master of the theory of it.

–Louis Pasteur (1871) Revise Scientifique

All models are wrong, but some are useful

–George E.P. Box (1979)

Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

–Henri Poincare (1905)

Philosophy is written in this great book of the Universe which is continually open before our eyes but we cannot read it without having first learnt the language and the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics and the characters are triangles, circles and other geometrical shapes without the means of which it is humanly impossible to decipher a single word; without which we are wandering in vain through a dark labyrinth.


Quirks of natural history will defeat any general theory.

–Chris Harley (sitting on the lawn at the 2000 ESA meeting)

Mathematics … was repugnant to me … [but] I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics; for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.

–Charles Darwin (in his autobiography)

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

–from the “Here’s to the crazy ones/ think different” Apple campaign (1997)

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.

–Mahatma Ghandi

Another from Ghandi that’s a bit more personal:

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

–Mahatma Ghandi

And one for many situations…

Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence

–Leonardo da Vinci

And now, on to the more political (as if the previous one wasn’t).  First, one with a reference to the infamous year 2000, although history does repeat itself (in 2016).  In any case, in 1555, it has been said that Nostradamus wrote (apparently this is a hoax, but I still like it):

Come the millennium, month 12,
In the home of greatest power,
The village idiot will come forth
To be acclaimed the leader.

And another non-science quote from many years ago, but in need of constant rereading, especially in light of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, murders of unarmed Black citizens, and much needed introspection and action by the white majority:

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a more convenient season.

–Martin Luther King Jr, 1963, from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

And one from a dear friend who also was one of my heroes.

Please don’t say I lost a battle with CF. I never saw it as a battle. I saw it as a gift that reminded me how beautiful life is.  Smile, you’re alive!  

–Matt Smith